Reading Into The Numbers

Today has seen the club release the squad numbers for the forthcoming season. What does a squad number ultimately mean? Not a great deal in modern football, but it’s the summer and there isn’t a great deal to get excited about without regular meaningful football. So here comes some thoughts on the new set of squad numbers.

Squad Numbers In Full

Clinton Morrison profoundly making the statement 'it's what you do with a squad number that matters'
Clinton Morrison profoundly making the statement ‘It’s what you do with a squad number that matters’
1 Lee Burge
2 Jordan Willis
3 Danny Pugh
4 Andrew Webster
5 Reda Johnson
6 Conor Thomas
7 John Fleck
10 Danny Swanson
11 Jim O’Brien
12 Dan Seaborne
14 Mohamed Coulibaly
15 Shaun Miller
17 Billy Daniels
18 Aaron Phillips
20 Marcus Tudgay
23 Ryan Allsop
24 Jordan Clarke
26 Ryan Haynes
27 Jack Finch
28 Ivor Lawton

The first thing to point out is that both Carl Baker and Adam Barton have not been given squad numbers. With Baker yesterday turning down a move to Barnsley I fear that our former captain could suffer the fate that many in the ‘bomb squad’ last season fell victim to. The clubs that want him cannot afford him, those that can have better options. I fully expect to see Baker reach a ‘golden handshake’ agreement in a similar manner to Steve Jennings and Gary McSheffrey last year.

Adam Barton: an enigma wrapped in an indie hair-cut.
Adam Barton: an enigma wrapped in an indie hair-cut.

Poor Adam Barton though, he has had some promising performances for the club but has never found a starting position to make his own. First he couldn’t get in ahead of Franck Moussa, James Bailey and Steve Jennings two years ago and last year Conor Thomas and John Fleck had a greater chemistry together than Barton had either of the duo. When he went out on loan to Fleetwood, he once again was stuck with the obstacle of a team having a settled line-up. Despite making an impression against Newport County last night, it seems that Barton will not be adding to his 36 appearances for the club.

Interestingly there is no number 9, suggesting that we are waiting for a star striker to join the club. Will that man be Josh McQuoid, one purple patch in 2010/11 aside, he has a poor strike record and I am hoping that we don’t end up with him as a strike option. With Marcus Tudgay and Shaun Miller both on one-year deals it seems that the duo are both gambles from Steven Pressley rather than the preferred options, although both have the potential to be real stars at this level.

Lee Burge has been given the number 1 shirt, with Ryan Allsop looking like first-choice for the opening games of the season it is clear that Burge needs to be given game time whenever possible in the opening months of the season. Thus far Pressley has resisted given Burge game time at every opportunity that he has had to do so, for more detail read here. Allsop’s loan deal expires in the middle of January and we could end up high and dry if we still don’t know whether to trust Burge or bring in a permanent replacement for Joe Murphy by then.

It’s good to see Jordan Willis rewarded for his form in the second half of last season with the number 2 shirt. From looking at our pre-season fixtures thus far it seems that Willis will begin the season at right-back. Many will be disappointed that Aaron Phillips has not been earmarked as the preferred choice, but from watching him play last season it’s clear that he is still very raw but will be an excellent footballer in a year’s time.

Expect to see more of Ryan Haynes this season.
Expect to see more of Ryan Haynes this season.

Focusing again on the young players given squad numbers, Ryan Haynes, Jack Finch and Ivor Lawton have been given the final three squad numbers thus far. Haynes has had an excellent season with the under-21s and should be looking to become first-choice left-back within the next 12 months. He has shown in pre-season that he will also be a capable deputy from the bench on the left of midfield.

Jack Finch will be a utility player, I haven’t seen or heard a great deal about him aside from that he can play in midfield and defence. I wouldn’t expect too much first-team football for him this season.

Finally, Ivor Lawton has been rewarded for some strong performances in pre-season with a squad number. He has mostly been used on the right of midfield despite primarily being a central midfielder with the academy. With Carl Baker on his way out and with Mohamed Coulibaly struggling for fitness, he will have a role to play this season, probably in a similar manner to Billy Daniels last season.

The final thing I would like to point out is that neither George Thomas nor James Maddison have been given squad numbers. Both have shown promise, Maddison more than Thomas, but it appears that this season is coming too season for either of them to make an impression at first-team level.

Overall the announcement of the squad numbers shows there is a lot of work to be done before the season starts. With no number 9 and several very raw talents including in the squad, it would appear that we are still waiting to bring in one or two more key players for next season. The disappointment is that we have had both time and money to bring players into the squad. Hopefully though this is a sign that the club is being patient in identifying and bringing in players who are holding out for better opportunities, a la Jim O’Brien, rather than finding themselves in a rush to bring in fit and able bodies into the squad.

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